MA Medieval Studies Tour of Lincoln

As medieval historians and University of Lincoln alumni, Lincoln’s remarkable history is not lost on us.

We did not know, however, that Visit Lincoln’s website offers pre-set historical tours of the city. There is a Roman Route, Jewish Route and a Battle of Lincoln Route, to name just a few. Yet, as a group we are interested in a broad range of history from Late Antiquity to Late Medieval; so, one Wednesday afternoon we took inspiration from the Visit Lincoln website and decided to wander around Lincoln looking for history we had never seen before. This is where we went:


MA Medieval Studies RouteRoute

  1. Lincoln Library
  2. Medieval Bishop’s Palace
  3. ‘Between Two Worlds’ sculpture by Michael Dan Archer
  4. Tennyson Statue
  5. Roman East Gate
  6. Newport Arch
  7. Roman Forum
  8. Cathedral and Castle View
  9. Westgate Water Tower
  10. View of the University



While we are planning on doing one of the pre-set tours eventually, our little wander around Lincoln Cathedral quarter showed us that there are some historical gems in the city that we didn’t even know about!

Visit Lincoln:

Route created by Hannah MacKenzie, Beth Williams and Lauren Brand: Three MA Medieval Studies Students.

Battle of Lincoln Fair





Ellie Lowe, an undergraduate BA History student at the University of Lincoln, has recently published her first book for the 800th anniversary of the Battle of Lincoln Fair and was kind enough to answer a few questions about this exciting opportunity:


What is your book about?

I was asked to write the book for the 800th anniversary of the Battle of Lincoln Fair, which is May 20th 2017. Despite being one of the most significant battles in England’s history, this event is relatively unknown compared to the likes of the Battle of Hastings. Many local residents see Lincoln as a small city in the modern day, but during the medieval period it was second only to London in terms of importance, and an bustling hub of trade and finance. Lincoln played a pivotal role in political affairs during this battle, and had the outcome been different it is very likely that a French king would have sat upon the English throne. As the book evolved it became a brief history of Lincoln itself, starting in the Roman period and ending in 1217, so readers will be able to gain a full understanding of the causes and consequences of the battle.


What/who encouraged you to publish this book?

I contacted a number of publishing houses in Lincolnshire looking for work experience in early 2016. Out of the several that I contacted, I only heard back from one, Tucann Design and Print in Washingborough. After sending a sample of my writing, I was asked if I’d like to write a short book on the Battle of Lincoln Fair for the 800th anniversary. This was such a great opportunity for me, and as I work for Lincoln Castle I know already knew a lot about the battle, so I accepted Tom Cann’s offer almost immediately.


How did you find the research process?

When I started I was only writing about the battle itself, and there is a chronicle by Roger of Wendover that I relied upon heavily, which was quite easy to understand. The event itself is often mentioned in passing but there are no major works written on it, which was the point of the book in the first place. Once it evolved to include a brief history of Lincoln I had to do a lot more research, and this has definitely helped me to build on my skills in this area. 


Do you want to publish anything else in the future?

I wouldn’t say no to any future opportunities, but ultimately I’d like to work in the publishing industry rather than pursuing a career in writing. Although this process has really helped me to understand how the writer/publisher relationship works and I have gained valuable skills throughout the process.


What areas of history are you most interested in? 

I am most interested in early modern history and my favourite modules at the University of Lincoln have been ‘Disease, Health and the Body in Early Modern Europe’ with Anna-Marie Roos, and ‘Accessing Ordinary Lives’ with James Greenhalgh and Helen Smith. I really enjoyed the content of both of these modules, and the freedom I had with my final assessments.


What do you have planned for your undergraduate dissertation?

My dissertation is going to be on public execution in the seventeenth century, and I am going to primarily explore how having wealth and status affected a condemned English citizen during this period. I will also research how the crowd reacted to executions, and whether this was different based upon the type of crime, and the type of person being executed.


 Ellie’s excellent book is available for purchase from Waterstones Lincoln or the Lincoln Castle shop.

For more information on Ellie’s undergraduate work and experience as a student at the University of Lincoln, please have a look at her blog:!


On the Road: Pilgrimage, Travel and Migration across Time and Space

On the Road: 

Pilgrimage, Travel and Migration across Time and Space 

A Roundtable

‘Hospitality on the Pilgrim Road to Santiago de Compostela’

On Monday 20th March 2017, the School of History and Heritage hosted a roundtable to accompany the exhibition entitled ‘Hospitality on the Pilgrim Road to Santiago de Compostela’ which is displayed at the Chapter House in Lincoln Cathedral until Sunday 2nd April 2017.

The event was introduced by Dr Francisco Singul (Xunta de Galicia) who highlighted the importance of hospitality, ceremony, and personal encounters with nature and other pilgrims on the route to Santiago de Compostela


This was followed by short presentations by Dr Jamie Wood, Dr Michele Vescovi, Dr Robert Portass, Dr Antonella Liuzzo Scorpo, and Dr Sarah Longair . The speakers touched on several different aspects of pilgrimage; including how architecture, ecclesiastical ambitions and economic pragmatism shaped the experience of medieval pilgrims, and how the history, meaning and power of the pilgrimage experience (medieval and modern) can be conveyed through exhibitions such as ‘Hajj: Journey to the Heart of Islam’ at the British Museum and ‘Hospitality on the Pilgrim Road to Santiago de Compostela’ in Lincoln Cathedral.


This roundtablIMG_5777e was a great companion to the current exhibition hosted at Lincoln Cathedral and sponsored by the Xunta de Galicia, as it offered different methodological approaches to the study of medieval pilgrimage which, in turn, inform our understanding of contemporary experiences of the spiritual and physical journey – the pilgrimage. Indeed, pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela remains a very popular phenomenon that attracts people from over 150 nationalities and across 5 continents.



The personal experiences of these pilgrims are beautifully captured by Manuel G. Vicente.

2017-03-ontheroad Photographs by Manuel G. Vicente

Professor Chris Wickham: ‘The Donkey and the Boat’

University of Lincoln’s Annual Medieval Lecture:

Chris W

Professor Chris Wickham

‘The Donkey and the Boat: Rethinking Mediterranean Economic Expansion in the Eleventh Century’

The University of Lincoln was delighted to welcome one of the most esteemed medieval historians in the world, Prof. Chris Wickham, to speak at the Annual Medieval Lecture on Tuesday 14th March 2017.

Prof. Wickham taught at the University of Birmingham for nearly thirty years and from 2005 to 2006 was Chichele Professor of Medieval History at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of All Souls College. He has published on a wide range of topics, including legal culture, lordship, the peasantry, the Feudal Revolution, and the economy and society of early medieval Europe; but, on Tuesday his lecture focused on the development of internal trade networks in Egypt prior to the eleventh century.

I was particularly interested in attending this lecture because I was encouraged to read Prof. Wickham’s work as part of my undergraduate degree in modules such as A Tale of Two Cities In Medieval Spain: From Toledo to Cordoba run by Dr Robert Portass. It was great to listen and talk to the historian who’s publications informed my understanding of Iberian history!

Prof. Wickham’s expertise and his passion for medieval history  came across clearly in his presentation and it was fascinating to listen to him lecture.



Professor Stephan Church’s Visit to UoL



On Wednesday 15th March, the University of Lincoln invited Prof. Stephan Church (University of East Anglia) to meet the undergraduate and postgraduate medieval studies community. Prof. Church lent his expertise on twelfth-century kinship to two modules: Chivalry in Medieval Europe (Level 3) and Public and Private Emotions (MA Medieval Studies).


Luke Brown, a third year undergraduate student, had this to say on Prof. Church’s visit.

 “Prof. Church’s lecture in Chivalry in Medieval Europe was both enjoyable and enlightening. His focus, the topic of household knights, allowed the group to use the knowledge of previous lectures, such as the education of a knight, in a new way; a focus on the political circles of knights. His own research, kings and their household knights in the twelfth and thirteenth century England, provided a different perspective upon Medieval chivalry when compared to the Iberian and French sources we usually discuss. His guest lecture was an interesting insight into a different dynamic of European Chivalry. 

Similarly, Prof. Church’s seminar provided an engaging discussion of the ideal household knight William Marshal. The knight and his textual “history” was the perfect example as he had a long career spanning the time of five different English kings. Prof. Church’s approach, which deployed modern day comparisons without being anachronistic, made the topic easily accessible.”


Prof. Church also joined our Public and Private Emotions seminar on Wednesday afternoon in which we focused on depictions of anger in medieval sources. It was great to have another voice in our discussions on medieval emotions and Prof. Church expertise on twelfth and thirteenth-century kingship complimented our understanding of ‘royal emotion’ which we had explored in a previous week.


Thank you, Prof. Church, for joining us!

Public and Private Emotions – Creative Analysis

In my second term module ‘Public and Private Emotions’ run by Dr Antonella Liuzzo Scorpo, we use a range of source material to study medieval perceptions and expressions of emotion: a field of inquiry which has recently received significant scholarly attention. We address themes such as love, friendship, hatred, fear and examine whether, and to what extent, concepts of private and public can be applied to a pre-modern era.

As 21st-century historians, we must be able to engage with a range of different audiences through various means of media; so, for our first assessment, we were asked to produce a creative source analysis that could engage a modern-day audience in the discussion of a key theme from the module. This task aimed to enhance our ability to interpret, analyse and present primary source material and provided a refreshing change from our usual essay-based assessments!


Guibert de Nogent’s Facebook Profile

I chose to use Facebook as a platform to present a modern interpretation of Guibert de Nogent’s twelfth-century autobiography, Monodies. I think that the selectivity of Facebook networks calls into question the definition of concepts such as ‘public’ and ‘private’, and demonstrates the comparable nature of exclusive twenty-first-century virtual ‘friendship’ networks and the self-regulated twelfth-century Christian communities which are prevalent topic of discussion in Monodies. Similarly, the format of Facebook allows for a mix of both introspection and interaction, which Guibert demonstrates in his autobiography by simultaneously engaging with personal memories and interacting with contemporary twelfth-century theological debates.


FB Status USE

I chose fear as the filter through which to discuss ideas of identity and otherness, and the divisions between mind and body in Guibert’s emotional autobiography. My analysis of Monodies aimed to highlight Guibert’s retrospective engagement with fear as an internal feeling, an emotional response and a socio-religious construction. I studied Monodies for my undergraduate dissertation, and I thought I was quite familiar with Guibert’s personal anecdotes; yet, examining this autobiography in light of a more nuanced historical discipline such as the study of emotions has radically developed my understanding of Monodies while simultaneously giving cause to question everything I thought I already knew!



Further Reading:

Guibert de Nogent. Monodies, Joseph McAlhany and Jay Rubenstein (trans.)(New York, 2011).

Fleming, John V. ‘Medieval European Autobiography’. In, Maria DiBattista and Emily O. Wittman (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to Autobiography (Cambridge, 2015), 35-48.

Kane, Bronach. ‘Social Representations of Memory and Gender in Medieval England’. Integrative Psychological and Behavioural Science 46 (2012), 544-558.

Rosenwein, Barbara H. Emotional Communities in the Early Middle Ages (New York, 2007).

Rosenwein, Barbara H. ‘Worrying about Emotions in History’, American Historical Review 107 (2002), 821-845.

Scott, A. & Kosso. Fear and Its Interpretations in the Middle Ages and Renaissance (Turnhout, 2002).

King Arthur- A Hero for all Ages

King Arthur- A Hero for all Ages by Beth Williams

With the upcoming release of Guy Richie’s latest film King Arthur: Legend of the Sword the question in some people’s minds might be ‘do we really need another film about King Arthur?’ It’s a legitimate question. I can’t deny a certain weakness myself for all things Arthurian but it still seems curious to me that one figure has succeeded in inspiring generation after generation of storytellers. The 2004 film King Arthur, BBC’s Merlin and Starz short lived show Camelot are just three of the most recent examples in the English language, not even touching upon the many T.V. shows and films that predate these or those created globally elsewhere. Of course we shouldn’t forget that this isn’t a purely modern phenomenon as even a passing familiarity with the works of the romantic poets or the Pre-Raphaelites proves that the Victorians weren’t immune to the charms of Camelot and its fictional inhabitants either.

In spite of his enduring popularity every incarnation of the legendary king differs wildly from the one that came before. The reason why most likely lies in the original source material; there are so many ‘Arthurian Legends’ it means there is no definitive account, no single authoritative voice dictating who Arthur is or was. In modern adaptations of Arthur just as the plot and characters are inspired by Medieval Romance so is the trend of re-writing the stories to suit a contemporary audience.  He remains a figure shrouded in mystery, half fact half fiction. As such, writers and artist are free to re-imagine him as they wish.

The earliest datable appearance of Arthur in literature is the Welsh work History of the British but it is Geoffrey of Monmouth who is widely credited with sparking the Arthur trend. The Arthur that appears in Monmouth’s History of the Kings of Britain is a great warrior King who successfully conquers England, Ireland, areas of Europe and even secures victories as far afield as Asia and Africa. This early incarnation of Arthur is an empire builder, who dies defending his land from his rebellious nephew Mordred. The idea of Arthur the Imperial victor has mostly fallen out of fashion, probably because the values of the conqueror are not ones shared by a modern audience.

Later traditions tended to focus upon the independent knights rather than the grand monarchical narrative. The most familiar version of the tale is from the romance of the high middle ages. The stories of Chrétien de Troyes in which Percival’s hunt for the Holy Grail and Guinevere’s and Lancelot’s doomed love appear for the first time. Arthur also spreads beyond its British origins amalgamating earlier stories into the Arthurian canon such as the tale of Tristan and Iseult. The far reaching popularity of the stories is demonstrated by the appearance of Arthur in the decorative carving of Modena Cathedral in Italy (it’s even been suggested that this is the earliest surviving depiction of him, although there is lively debate over its exact date).

Depiction of Arthurian characters, Modena Cathedral, Italy.
The Round table, Great Hall, Winchester









As Arthur grew in popularity the English monarchy started to use the reputation of the legendary king as a propaganda tools for themselves. Never is this more evident than in the round table still displayed in pride of place on the wall of what remains of Winchester Castle. It was made in the reign of Edward I who, like his grandson Edward III, used Geoffrey of Monmouth as historical antecedence for their claims over Scotland and the latter even suggested setting up his own round table of knights. The Tudors got in on the Arthurian action too with Henry VII calling his first son Arthur in the hope that he would become Arthur I of England; with Arthur’s premature death his brother Henry VIII wasn’t above playing up his welsh ancestry to suggest an hereditary link with the Arthur of old, and had the Winchester round table painted with a Tudor Rose and a portrait that bore a striking resemblance to Henry as a young man.

Arthur easily lends himself to being a hero for all time, because that is what he has always been. Each author has taken the name of Arthur and used him as a vehicle to present their idea of a great King. From the early incarnations of the fearsome warrior, to the epitome of Chivalric values Arthur can be everything to everybody because every writers creates their own new Arthur inspired by, yet independent from those that came before. From the look of the trailers Richie’s Arthur rejects his hereditary position being ‘raised on the streets’ in order to make a rough tough action hero who is more palatable to a twenty-first century audience than a privileged rich boy who hasn’t had to work for what he has. The hunt for the ‘real Arthur’ has spawned all kinds of studies, and ideas about the historical truth behind the legends but the reality is that the real life King Arthur, if there ever was one (a big if) will always remain unknowable but Monmouth did succeed in creating one of the most enduring popular fictional figures ever.

Beth Williams, February 2017.  – Beth is currently undertaking a MA Medieval Studies course at the University of Lincoln.


For an Introduction to Arthurian Literature see:

Archibald, Elizabeth and  Ad Putter (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to the Arthurian Legend (Cambridge, 2009).





Pancake Day (Part Two): Cryspe

The second medieval pancake recipe I tried this Pancake Day comes from the 15th century Harleian Manuscript (279) and is cited as the first pancake recipe in English. This manuscript demonstrates a contemporary French influence on cooking and refers to these pancakes as ‘Cryspe’ after the French crêpe (meaning ‘crispy’).




  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 cup warm milk
  • 1 tsp yeast
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 cups plain flour
  • Any grease



Original Method:

Take Whyte of Eyroun, Mylke, & Floure, & a lytel Berme, & bete it to-gederys, & draw it þorw a straynoure, so þat it be renneng, & not to styf, & caste Sugre þer-to, & Salt; þanne take a chafer ful of freysshe grece boyling, & put þin hond in þe Bature, & lat þin bature renne dowun by þin fyngerys in-to þe chafere; & whan it is ronne to-gedere on þe chafere, & is y-now, take & nym a skymer, & take it vp, & lat al þe grece renne owt, & put it on a fayre dyssche, & cast þer-on Sugre y-now, & serue forth.


I interpreted this method as follows:

  • Activate the yeast in the warm milk and sugar.
  • Add milk mixture to the egg whites and combine.
  • Whisk in the flour a bit at a time to make a runny batter (add more milk if necessary).
  • When the mixture is combined strain the batter to remove any lumps.
  • Place a heaping spoonful of batter into your hand and let the mix run through your fingers into a shallow pan of hot oil.
  • Create a thin lattice of batter in the oil.
  • Flip the cryspe to ensure that it is cooked on both sides before removing from the oil.
  • Drain the cryspe and repeat.
  • Serve warm with sugar.




Unlike Apicius’ 5th century Ova spongia ex lacte, these 15th century cryspes have a more traditional pancake batter recipe. However, the slightly unconventional French ‘drizzle’ method renders these cryspes more akin to a funnel cake than a crêpe-style pancake. (For more information on medieval funnel-cakes see the 14th century guidebook:  Le Menagier de Paris, Trans. Gina L. Greco and Christine M. Rose (New York, 2009).) Nevertheless, this recipe was delicious!



While modern style pancake recipes don’t appear in English until the 16th century, the two ‘pancake’ recipes I tried  provided a glimpse into the fascinating medieval history of this humble dish.


For more information on the global origins of the pancake, please see: 

Albala, Ken. Pancake: A Global History (London, 2008).



Pancake Day (Part One): Ova spongia ex lacte

This Pancake Day I indulged my inner food-historian and recreated two medieval pancake recipes.

 Galen explores the nutritional properties of literal ‘pan-cakes’ (têganitai) in his On the Properties of Foodstuffs (De alimentorum facultatibus, 2nd century); yet, historic recipes for traditional pancakes are rare due to their simple set of ingredients and easy cooking instructions. For this reason, the first ‘pancake’ I made comes from the Apicius Manuscript, an early 5th century collection of Roman cookery recipes.

Ova spongia ex lacte (egg sponge with milk) does not call for flour like a traditional pancake recipe, but it is the earliest written example of a ‘cake’ made in a pan!




  • 4 eggs
  • A hemina (240 ml) of milk
  • Oil
  • Honey and pepper to garnish



  1. Beat eggs into the milk
  2. Heat oil in a frying pan
  3. Cook egg/milk ‘batter’ on one side, then flip and cook the other side
  4. Serve with pepper and honey


Egg Sponge with Milk

Unsurprisingly, this recipe turned out a bit like a soggy omelette. However, in his De alimentorum facultatibus, Galen suggests that the honey served with the Ova spongia ex lacte ‘gives rise to a humour that is a mix of thick and thin, and in healthy people [is] better for liver, kidneys and spleen than those [foods] that have been prepared without honey’. So, despite the odd texture, the honey garnish makes this ‘pan-cake’ beneficial for our internal humoral balance!


While the recipe wasn’t overly delicious, I was astounded by the ancient origins of the humble pancake.



Albala, Ken. Pancake: A Global History (London, 2008).

Apicius. The Roman Cookery Book: A Critical Translation of the Art of Cooking, for Use in the Study and the Kitchen. Trans. Elisabeth Rosenbaum and Ed. Barbara Flower (London, 1958).

Galen, On the Properties of Foodstuffs (De alimentorum facultatibus). Trans. Owen Powell (Cambridge, 2003).

Between The Sheets in Late Medieval England


Hollie Morgan

Recently, I met with Dr Hollie Morgan to discuss her newly published monograph Beds and Chambers in Late Medieval England: Reading, Representation and Realities.

This volume is the first interdisciplinary study of the cultural meanings of beds and chambers in late medieval England and sheds new light on how medieval people felt about their domestic space and how this shaped their ideas about wider concepts such as of love, God, sex and politics.

This monograph draws from Hollie’s doctoral research which she completed at the University of York in 2014. Hollie says that she did not face many problems while writing and publishing her study, but confessed to feeling like she had to resurrect the metaphorical PhD monster ‘only to slay it again’ with the publication of this book!

In Beds and Chambers, Hollie draws on an array of literary, pragmatic and visual sources including romances, saints’ lives, lyrics, plays, wills, probate inventories, letters, church and civil court documents, manuscript illumination and physical objects. When asked what her favourite source to work with was, Hollie replied that she has always liked medieval romances, her favourite of these being Sir Gawain and the Green Knight which appears at the start and conclusion of her book. In our meeting, Hollie strongly advocated the use of a range of source materials as well as an interdisciplinary approach to Medieval Studies in order to nuance our understanding of the period: a methodology that is successfully employed in her own work.

I was particularly interested to find out more about the manuscript illumination on the cover of the volume. Hollie chose to use the historiated initial ‘A’ of ‘Adulterium’ from James le Palmer’s Omne bonum, an encyclopaedia of universal knowledge, which shows a man and woman in bed, with the explanation ‘Adulterium est alieni thori violacio’: adultery is the violation of the bed of another. Hollie explained that this renders the bed itself the focus of the illumination, making it a highly fitting and intriguing image for the front cover of this volume.

Hollie’s long term research goal is to understand what ‘home’ meant in late medieval England. With this in mind, Hollie plans to examine the cultural meanings of hearths and halls in her future research.


Congratulations Hollie on the publication of your book, and thank you for a lovely meeting!